News & Commentary

Jordan Peterson Advocates For Segregated Social Media, KYC Requirements

After months of being exiled from Twitter by the company’s previous management, Jordan Peterson’s access to the platform was restored by Elon Musk on November 18.

Upon being unbanned, Peterson promptly thanked Musk (2:00pm), shouted out Musk (2:01pm), thanked Musk again (2:37pm), then immediately went to work advocating for the precise kind of elitist two-tiered system Musk has said he wants to build.

In response to Musk tweeting that he will — exactly like the previous management — “max deboost” and demonetize “negative/hate tweets,” Peterson said (2:42pm):

This comment was widely panned, even by many of his own supporters and fellow “influencers.” Here’s a sampling. (Ironically, some of the best replies came from anonymous accounts, as is often the case on Twitter.)

Even former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey chimed in, warning against any such move toward “less anonymity” on Twitter:

One of the most popular (pair of) replies referenced Peterson’s behavior in the face of the “biomedical tyranny” of the past couple years, most notably Peterson encouraging his followers to “get the damn vaccine.”

Another (dreaded anonymous) user posted an entire thread delving into the “long and critical history of anonymous speech,” including, for example, some of America’s Founding Fathers in publications like Common Sense and The Federalist Papers:

The Russell Brand Interview

Peterson actually began his crusade to “ban” anonymous accounts before he himself was even allowed back onto Twitter. For example, over two weeks before his own unbanning, he made similar comments during an apperance on Russell Brand’s popular online show.

Brand’s first question for Peterson was, Brand said, related to “Elon Musk’s recent take over on Twitter” and “whether he is a distinct and discrete category of billionaire.” Specifically: “How is he different, how is he the same, and how will Elon Musk’s position at Twitter affect your position on Twitter?”

Peterson started out by briefly acknowledging that he is “still banned” and that it “remains to be seen” whether Musk will unban him. He then pivoted to a three-minute commentary about how “large online platforms allow anonymous troll demons to rampage through society with no cost to themselves,” which he said was “the biggest problem“—a problem so big that it “actually pose[s] a threat to the Integrity of the culture itself.”

These people are “utter cowards, likely to be narcissists and Machiavellians, resentful people sitting in their basement at home dwelling on their misery and doing everything they can to spew toxicity out into the world,” he said, adding that when they are able to “multiply themselves millions of times using this incredible, powerful computer technology, they’re not even human anymore. In my estimation they’re literally a demonic force.” (“And I mean that in a technical sense.”)

Peterson concluded his remarks with a proposed solution—the same one he would go on to aggressively push on Twitter starting a couple weeks later:

“And so that’s what we’re seeing online. And that has to be stopped. I think the large tech companies should be required to put in know your customer laws. They should ban anonymous accounts, but in this way: imagine that you have a section for comments where it’s real human beings that are verified, and you have another section underneath that’s for anonymous troll demons. And if you want to go visit their hell and see what their resentful minds are spewing into the public landscape, then you can. Otherwise you stick to the real human beings.”

Here’s the clip (the part from 0:00-3:44):

The Biggest Problem

Again: The “biggest problem” facing social media, per Peterson, isn’t rampant big tech censorship by some of the most powerful multinational corporations on Earth.

It’s not the fact that this is generally done in an opaque and highly selectively-enforced manner—sometimes in collusion with the US and even the Chinese governments.

It’s not the fact that this Orwellian dragnet has swept up, for instance, prominent doctors, scientists, and journalists who dissented about lockdown policies and Covid treatments, not to mention myriad other issues.

It’s not the fact that Elon Musk himself is now openly turning this censorship regime toward targets of his choosing, rather than actually dismantling it.

It’s not people getting “swatted,” fired from their job, imprisoned, or threatened with death for commenting about a controversial topic online, making a relatively benign joke, or owning a coveted Twitter handle.

It’s not the ensuing chilling effect that these phenomena have on the public discourse.

It’s not even anonymous accounts run by governments, intelligence agencies, and giant corporations to manipulate public opinion.

It is—very specifically—anonymous accounts run by average, otherwise powerless people “in their basement.”

That is “the biggest problem,” according to Jordan Peterson.

Sleight of Hand

Another highly notable aspect of Peter’s framing of this issue is the way he conflates “anonymous troll demons” with anonymity generally.

Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time on the internet at any point during the past (say) 25+ years is familiar with actual “trolls” – people who seem to delight in being as inflammatory and rude as possible, and whose primary purpose seems to be stirring the pot and getting a rise out of people.

Peterson focuses on the behavior of this subset of anonymous users when describing “the problem” (sorry, the BIGGEST problem), but then uses their behavior to smear and even dehumanize all anonymous users with the same broad brush, all while advocating for their banishment to internet “hell,” segregated from “real people” (like multimillionaire Daily Wire hosts who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs).

This slippery sleight of hand can be seen not only in his Russell Brand interview, but also in many of the comments he has made over the past couple weeks while aggressively pushing this smear, and his pro-censorship solution.

For instance (note: “nyms” means people who use pseudonyms):

Note how these people are, supposedly, “cowards,” simply by virtue of not revealing the full name and identity to Jordan Peterson (and the entire internet) before criticizing him.

Remember, too, that this is after he had already received ALL of the replies we saw earlier in this article. The case for anonymity—and the fact that there are, indeed, many very valid reasons for people to want to be anonymous online, even if certain jerks and bad actors have always abused that ability—has already been explained to him quite clearly by thousands of people at this point.


This bizarre obstinance has continued for weeks now. Let’s take a quick look at a more examples, and a small sampling of some of the countless replies that he’s received (and largely ignored) along the way.

Here’s Peterson continuing his campaign against online anonymity a few days later. Notice the false framing (“Many trolls claim…), which ignores the fact that many non-trolls and many people who aren’t anonymous (or pseudonymous) at all have been “claiming” the same thing to him for weeks, as he is well aware.

Peterson was back at it just over an hour later. Notice the relentless use of this false dichotomy, where you’re either a “real person” or an “anonymous cowardly troll demon,” no matter how many times he is corrected about the undeniable fact that plenty of pseudonyms people—now and throughout history, including the U.S. founding fathers—have been civil, thoughtful, insightful, brave, etc.

Peterson again a day later:

Again: incredible obstinance and relentless false framing (“real people” vs “trolls”), while refusing to acknowledge any valid reasons to be pseudonymous or the existence of generally civil, thoughtful pseudonymous people (let alone how abundant they are). Also, he did say they should be “banned” when talking to Russell Brand (explicitly used that word), and described his KYC segregation plan as a form of banning.

This is all so obvious and ridiculous (as you can hopefully see at this point) that the real question seems to be why it’s happening: Why is Jordan Peterson so hellbent on dishonestly demonizing the entire concept of online anonymity like this? And why is he offering up policies that many can easily see would have a major chilling effect on dissent and serve as a major stepping stone toward a Chinese-style social credit score system for the internet, while ignoring literally thousands of people pointing it out to him?

Summary & Conclusion

Quoting more of the many replies to that last tweet of Peterson’s would probably be redundant at this point (you can always click the button at the bottom of it to read them), but let’s give the last word to @eugyppius, a popular pseudonymous writer who is not only not a “troll” or “demon,” but is in fact an a widely-valued contributor to the discourse around Covid and other related topics – arguably more so than Jordan “Get The Damn Vaccine” Peterson. This short thread from December 7 summarizes the predominate sentiment well:

Peterson’s crusade against anonymous internet trolls who shout at him in his youtube comments is embarrassing.

Anonymity and pseudonymity have a long tradition in western literature and politics, and both have been crucial to the internet since its inception.

It was big, central, corporatised social media (Facebook was a major early player here) who first conceived of abolishing internet anonymity, as of course advertisers, discourse police and tech surveillance operatives want nothing so much as access to your real name and address.

Drive-by comments from assholes don’t matter. Anons also produce a lot of very high-quality content, and dumb boomer-tier schemes that would require everyone to scan their government-issued ID before going online are basically social credit systems flying under another name.

As an internet anon who has backchannel conversations with a lot of other internet anons – some of them well-known and some not – I can assure you that they’re not “sadistic Machiavellian [what does that even mean?] psychopaths and narcissists”. The ones I know are doctors, lawyers, some of them are professors and the like, a few are even politicians. People with families and public personas, who can’t express their full political views under their own name in public, for fear of retaliation against their careers and their families.

A lot of the older crowd will comment under their own names, but basically every career-aged person <60 with our views will express them anonymously. The political environment has gotten very harsh and censorious very fast, for everyone who isn’t retired, tenured, or the like.

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0). May be modified from original.